LP's SOCE extension plea gets Comelec nod

Pia Gutierrez, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jun 16 2016 04:23 PM | Updated as of Jun 17 2016 03:18 AM

MANILA (UPDATED) - The Commission on Elections (Comelec) en banc has granted the request of the Liberal Party (LP) to extend the deadline for the submission of its Statement of Contributions and Expenditures (SOCE).

After deliberating on the matter Thursday afternoon, the commission en banc voted 4-3 to extend the deadline to submit SOCEs to June 30. 

Commissioners who voted for the extension are Arthur Lim, Rowena Guanzon, Al Parreño and Sheriff Abbas.

Comelec Chairman Andy Bautista, Campaign Finance Office Chair Christian Robert Lim, and Commissioner Luie Guia voted against the extension.

In a press conference, Comelec spokesman James Jimenez said Bautista voted against the extension but recommended allowing late filing of SOCE with appropriate fine.

He added that the four commissioners who voted for the extension cited the absurdity of the result if they will not allow the extension of the filing of the SOCE.

Jimenez said the extension will benefit five senators, 115 congressmen, and 40 governors, who otherwise will not be allowed to take office if the extension was denied. 

"Medyo malaki 'yung effect nito, and so the extension will benefit everyone. Not just one party in particular, but the extension will be available for everyone, all parties, all candidates," he said.

"'Yung ganoon karami ang hindi makakaupo dahil hindi sila nagfile ng SOCE."

The poll body's Campaign Finance Office (CFO) on Wednesday recommended the denial of the party's request, saying granting so would be unfair to all the other national political parties and national candidates who were able to submit their SOCE on time.

Out of all the national candidates, only LP's standard bearer Mar Roxas failed to filed his SOCE.

The LP, meanwhile, was only able to submit its SOCE on Tuesday, or six days after the deadline on June 8.

But the acceptance of the party's SOCE was only ministerial, which means the CFO took in the documents without evaluating its merits.

Other national political parties which failed to submit their SOCE were Aksyon Demokratiko and Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino.

READ: LP spent P241-M in May polls

The LP and Roxas have asked the poll body for a 14-day extension, citing the voluminous number of receipts that have to be scanned and attached to the document.

READ: Mar seeks extension for SOCE submission

The SOCE is a requirement of the Comelec, wherein candidates declare the amount of campaign contributions they received, whether in cash or in kind, and the amount they spent for their campaign.

"To grant the request for extension would not only be unfair to other candidates and parties who complied within the prescribed period but also would be a reversal of the Commission's own resolution on the matter," CFO commissioner-in-charge Christian Robert Lim said in a memorandum sent to the en banc Wednesday.

Lim stressed that the 30-day period from election day is "a hard deadline" set by law in Section 14 of Republic Act No. 7166.

The commitment to file SOCE within 30 days after the election is also stated in the certificate of candidacy (COC) form of all candidates, he added.

The LP's failure to submit its SOCE on time has raised questions on whether Vice President-elect Leni Robredo and other winning candidates of the party may still assume office on June 30.

Republic Act 7166 and Section 5 of Comelec Resolution 9991 state that winning candidates elected to any public office nominated by parties shall not enter upon the duties of their office until the party has filed its own SOCE.

But the camp of Robredo has dismissed fears over the repercussions of the late filing.

READ: Leni 'not in peril' amid LP's late SOCE filing, lawyer says

Robredo's lead counsel, Atty. Romulo Macalintal, said there is no provision in the law that prevents the poll body from accepting a late submission.

"There is no problem with the late filing (of SOCE). The LP is seeking an extension. Comelec says extensions are not allowed... but this does not mean Comelec cannot accept a late submission... The request for extension will likely be moot, because there is no extension, penalties will have to be applied," he said.

Macalintal added the late filing of SOCE is an administrative offense that can be resolved by simply paying a penalty of P1,000 to P10,000 on the first instance.

"This is an administrative offense and has been decriminalized. The LP opted to file late but with the complete documents. Paying a penalty is better than being slapped with forfeiture of documents."